Paul stared out his living room window at sunset. “How beautiful.” Anne always enjoyed the pastel colors of the clouds at this time of day. He glanced at her framed picture on the table, and once again, a twinge of pain and longing pulled at him. Had it really been a year since she’d passed away? Yes, I suppose so.
His chest tightened at the recollection of it. Totally unexpected. Went to bed and never woke up. Cerebral hemorrhage. Probably a peaceful way to go, but still . . .
He turned the framed picture away. Still too fresh. Moving on, he opened the folder on his dining room table and perused the contents. The information on Greg Herold told him nothing that he didn’t already know. Educated at the best schools, a star athlete, and unmarried.
Blah. I need more. He grabbed the phone handset and began to dial. The line buzzed until he heard a voice say, “Duncan Clark, speaking.”
“Duncan, did I catch you at a bad time?”
“Oh, Paul. Absolutely not. What can I do for you?”
“How is the new position?”
“Well . . . not ideal, but I can make it work.”
“Sounds like my situation as well. I was wondering if I could talk to you about Greg Herold?”
“What about him? Seems like a nice enough guy.”
“Let’s not dance around. He’s Frank Herold’s son. I need to know what I’m getting into. His likes and dislikes. His personality in a nutshell, just between the two of us, and not for attribution.”
“I gotcha. Okay. He’s only interested in sports and is not an academic. Likes to make himself look important. Bit of a blowhard, an average administrator, and competent with supervision. Left things a bit of a mess here at Harrison, but nothing that can’t be fixed.”
That last comment sounded intriguing. “What sort of mess?”
“Seems he has an eye for the ladies and doesn’t really understand boundaries. Unfortunately, with his dad as head of HR, there is no one to complain to and those that did get fired or reassigned for various reasons. If there is one thing I’d watch out for, it would be that.”
“Thanks, Clark. Appreciate the heads up.”
“Glad I could help. Anything else you need?”
“No. I’ve got a lot of personnel decisions to make. Most of my counseling department left for higher pay, and the ones sticking around aren’t computer literate.”
“I’ve got that problem too. Good luck.”
“You too. Talk to you later.” Clark said goodbye as Paul laid the handset down.
Shifting a stack of personnel records, he sorted through the counselor candidates to fill the three available positions. Two were men, along with three women. Of the female candidates, one was coming out of retirement with twenty-seven years’ experience and a Ph.D. Of the other two, one was a former Spanish teacher who had gotten a counseling certificate five years ago from a state university. The last was fresh out of Ohio State University, earned a full-ride athletic scholarship, a fifth-year master’s degree in counseling, a minor in computer science, and a part-time yoga instructor. Bingo!
* * *
A knock came from Paul’s office door.
“Enter,” he said, studying a map of Jamesville.
The door opened and a tall young woman with honey-colored skin and dark hair stepped in. Long curly ringlets fell around her gold earrings and touched her shoulders. Her bold yellow floral wraparound dress and red-colored wedges on her feet leaped out at him. Paul nearly gasped. She was stunning.
Her dark brown eyes found him, and she smiled. Stepping toward his desk, she extended a long bare well-toned arm. “How do you do? I’m Ms. Penny Huntington, your new counselor.”
Paul stood and extended his hand but had to clear his throat before speaking. “Paul Boniface, Principal of Jamesville High School.” He pointed toward a seat in front of his desk.
She slid into it gracefully.
With some hesitation, he sat and forced his eyes to her personnel folder. “Welcome to JHS, and thank you for joining our team.”
“It’s a pleasure, and thank you for the opportunity.”
“This will be your first full-time school counselor position?”
“Yes, I worked with counselors in the Cincinnati school system, but only on a part-time, volunteer basis. My focus was on getting their casework into their computer systems.”
“Well, that’s very good. We need to modernize our counseling department, and I need someone to digitize our testing and counseling information.” He glanced at the folder again. “It also says that you work as a part-time yoga instructor?”
“Well, apart from the scholarship, I needed spending money. Didn’t earn much, but it kept me in shape.”
Yes, indeed. “I will need you to work closely with our new vice principal to ensure that our counseling tasks are completed.”
“Look forward to it. When can I meet him?”
“He’ll be coming on board next week after he’s done vacationing in the Maldives.”
She cocked her head to one side as if considering how to respond, then spoke slowly, “Okay, I should be able to get familiar with how the department collects and retrieves information by then.”
“Very good. I’ll show you to your office.” They walked into the hallway, past Duncan Clark’s old office, to Penny’s new one. He opened the door, and she stepped inside.
“Incidentally, what sport did you get a scholarship in?”
She ran a hand across the desk as she surveyed the blank walls. “Volleyball.”
“Oh, didn’t know they gave scholarships for that. I bet that was fun.”
She fixed him with a hard look and gave him a full but steely smile. Her voice sounded a bit over-controlled, “Absolutely, and I got to do my favorite activity—hit balls.”
* * *
Penny sighed. The piles of forms on her desk were outrageous, both in quantity and that they were in hardcopy. Does no one in this department know how to do data entry? The secretaries still operated like it was the ‘80s, treating their systems as mechanical paperweights. That attitude changed after going toe-to-toe with the head of counseling. The computer on her desk was at least brand new, not the rot-gut piece of junk that some others were using. Regardless, the data wasn’t going to enter itself. Good thing she didn’t have a personal life. This was going to take weeks to accomplish.
A quick knock on the door before it popped open. A tall man, dark-haired, early thirties, stepped inside. He wore an impeccable three-piece suit and a crooked but brilliantly white smile. “Oh hey, you must be Penny Huntington.” He walked up to her desk and extended his hand. “Vice Principal Greg Herold, nice to meet you.”
Penny stared at him and steamed. Not even so much as a “are you busy?” or “Hello, can I come in?” Oh well, that’s how it rolls in the boys’ club. She nodded at him but didn’t take his hand. Instead finished filling out a form field on the computer. “Hello. Mr. Herold. I’m pretty busy—”
He turned his hand over and plopped it face down on the pile of forms on her desk. “I see that. Come see me in my office in half an hour, and we’ll talk about getting you out from under this mess.”
Really? Must. Not. Roll. Eyes. “Yes, sir.”
“Oh please,” he said with a dismissive wave. “You can call me Greg.”
She flashed a smile. “Yes, sir.”
He pursed his lips but turned and sauntered out.
Oh dear God, what the hell was that?